Paul McCartney offered his hand and hoped I would write a good article. John as in Reid the cricketer, not John Lennon. The nearest I got to him was saying hello back in the mid-sixties as I went on to the John Reid squash courts opposite Victoria University of Wellington. I met Paul in the late 60s at Apple in London, and a few years later was back in New Zealand because the British government requested with menaces my departure after five fab years there. I include ‘Me’ in the title because I was like many journalists adjacent to history in the making. The Paul incident was very much a footnote in his history, what we now call ‘a fail’. Paul had hit Number One with Mary Hopkins and one of his next projects was a group of pretty young things called Grapefruit, maybe after Yoko’s 1964 book of that name. I interviewed them for a television magazine. They failed to chart. Not long after that I was back at Apple. We knew the premises because one of my colleagues knew The Beatles PR man and he invited us down. ‘Bring a suitcase’ he said. We did visit without a suitcase and our tight-waisted flares and form-fitting velvet jackets were too tight to carry the gear and the dosh on offer for free. But this day in 1969 word arrived in the office that The Beatles were doing a free rooftop concert and we ran from Tottenham Court Road. I arrived with the trousers itching and the yellow nylon butterfly print shirt clinging like the wrap yet to be invented. We were in time for the second version of ‘Get Back’, which for 40 [...]
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Okay, Roger Hall and Me. No way Michael Moore’s 1989 destroyer-mentary on General Motors CEO Roger Smith. Mine is a benign reminiscence of a student friendship, its subsequent ebb and flow anchored in the bedrock of flatting in Kelburn in the mid-sixties. I wanted to flat with a fellow student teacher and BA aspirant who was very amusing and yet wanted to talk serious literature. I treasure the exquisite little set of Jane Austen novels he gave me. He was more committed to swotting literature, going on to an MA while I rushed downtown to swap teaching and a middling BA for a cadet job at the Listener. Roger envied me joining Monte Holcroft’s stable of high literary performers, unaware I sat across from poet and Downstage co-founder Peter Bland trying to hide from his ebullient literary outbursts. Morning teas were a place I couldn’t hide, as Monte came out of his office with his cuppa and the middle-level staff chose a subject. What was the best novel I had read? I said The Leopard. Hoots of sneering laughter, except for Noel Hilliard, who later counselled me in Hemingway and Conan Doyle. The after-5.30 half-hour beer swill at the nearest pub was also a trial, as I got pissy-eyed on one beer and tried to match the joke-telling, stumbling back to the flat with my ears burning. Thank goodness there was a game of hall soccer. No, not named after Roger, it was the hall between our bedrooms where we kicked a ball of newspaper – probably the three-minute Dumb Onion – around each other to score in our respective opponent’s door-mouth. This was a rowdy and vicious game with hacking ankles and bashing against [...]
Life as a Novel is a magnificent 575-page, two-volume biography of Maurice Shadbolt by Philip Temple. I won it in a competition to write about Shadbolt. The biography is as readable and complex as any of Shadbolt’s novels. It also proves yet again what is observed in the biography, namely that New Zealand is small and the writing community is really small. I can vouch for this. As a journalist I interviewed Maurice’s first wife, socialised with his second and third wives and almost met his fourth when we were doing stints at the Glen Eden Library for the Going West Writers’ Festival. Meeting Maurice in his famously sociable home at Arapito Road, Titirangi, was memorable for several reasons. It was 1989 and my first visit into those steep, native bush hills above the estuary since I used to cycle up the gravel 1950s road from my home in Glen Eden, where my father was postmaster and I was a telegram delivery boy. Maurice and Bridget were the best of hosts. It could have been a scene from the Temple biography; I had met Philip – in